On Religious Rights and State Rulings

This weekend I had the family over for my child’s Baptism and Baptism After Party. At one point there was a large group gathered under a gazebo in my back yard dodging the sun and sharing stories when my dad opened up the can of worms as he is know to do.

He brought up the story of The Hausers. In case you have been out of the loop, off the grid, or under a rock The Hausers have made national headlines for refusing chemotherapy for their 13 year old that has been diagnosed with cancer.

The lines were pretty quickly and clearly drawn with almost everyone siding with the State and their ability to force the parents to put the child into proper medical care. Almost everyone. There was one recently married and very religious couple that felt the State was outside their rights and things became uncomfortable very quickly.

I did my best to moderate and keep things civil by steering the conversation to an end, but my statement that “there is plenty of precident for the State interfering in the welfare of a child”  struck an unfortunate nerve.

“Sure. Maybe they can, but should they? What about religious rights?”

A touchy topic, to be sure, and then the conversation turned to vaccinations and a few more people (without children I might add) sided with the religious arguement of rights and interference.

Thankfully the conversation stayed civil, I was able to change the topic, and didn’t have to release the peacemaker.

Today the Strib has an article that once again stokes the fires Editorial: New perspective for vaccine ‘refusers’.

 All in all it certainly raises a lot of questions: Is this the state over reaching their authority Nanny State style? Is this really a freedom of religion issue? Can there ever be agreement between the two sides on the issue of vaccinations,forced medical treatment, etc?

What do you think?



6 Comments so far

  1. Fiona (quick13) on May 28th, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

    Vaccines can be an interesting subject but it is the hypocrisy of these "refusers" that claim it is against their religion or beliefs to vaccinate their children; but when those same children then get the measles or polio or whichever disease that could easily be prevented, expect the state to or their insurance to pay for all their medical care. Who exactly do they expect pays the cost of school closures and missed work time or deaths when their failure to vaccinate creates super strain bugs or epidemics that affect the rest of the population? If they were living in their own compound, like the Mormon families perhaps that would be one thing, but when their decisions impact the rest of their community, to its detriment, those decisions should be able to be imposed upon by "the state."

  2. tipper on May 28th, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

    It’s incorrect to say that anyone who refuses to vaccinate their children in Minnesota is a hypocrite if they’re using religion as an excuse, as Minnesota is one of the states in which you can have merely a philosophical objection to vaccinations. Still, some people can be religiously opposed to some vaccinations for religious reasons yet still seek treatment; I know devout Catholics who are skipping certain vaccinations because they are grown in fetal tissue.

    When I was a kid, we got a handful of vaccinations for the more serious illnesses. Now, children aren’t only being vaccinated against polio, but against Hepatitis B, which, unless their mother is infected, or they are child prostitutes/drug users, they have little-to-no chance of getting. They’re vaccinated against rotovirus, and from what I can tell, that’s mostly because it costs money to have children admitted to hospitals for dehydration and to have parents taking sick days to care for their children. Vaccinations do not always have to do with health; sometimes they are about the bottom line.

    The safety of vaccines is up for debate, even ignoring the flawed vaccinations = autism connection. Reactions to vaccinations are not rare. Some people can’t have them because they’re allergic to the medium in which they’re grown (and you’re not going to know that with a 2-month-old baby who has only had breastmilk or formula in his/her system).

    You talk about super-strain bugs, Fiona, but what happens when we simply vaccinate against every bug out there instead of acquiring natural immunity? Our current population didn’t get where it is now by avoiding contagions. A strain of flu that would’ve killed someone in the 1500s isn’t going to kill us now, and it’s not because we’ve developed a vaccine for it.

    The editorial pointed out above is typical of the articles you see that are vehmently pro-vaccine. The math in the original AP article that’s quoted ("Kids whose parents refused vaccinations were 23 times more likely to get pertussis than kids who got the shots.") was off; it’s more like 4.5 times as likely, and, by the way, that also means that if you get the vaccine, you can still possibly get infected. The editorial is also wrong about the Hib cases: Only ONE death was in Minnesota (not all five), and that child had been vaccinated; he just hadn’t completed the series yet.

    Personally, I feel that some vaccinations are worth the risk to the individual to protect the whole, but most – especially the new ones, such as the chicken pox vaccine – are not. Individuals should absolutely have the right to decide for themselves what their health care treatment should entail. In the case of this family, there may very well be misinformation being provided to the family by the religious organization of which they’re a part, but that’s a separate issue, and I feel that it’s less dangerous and scary than having a government that decides what each individual does with his or her life. I don’t agree with the parents’ decision to withhold treatment, but that doesn’t mean I want the state deciding for them.

  3. emilysaysso on May 28th, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

    I’ve always argued for vaccinations on that basis that they do far more good than harm, but then again, I’m not a parent. I’d imagine if your kid is in the small percentage of children who are harmed by vaccines or any other government-mandated treatment, you probably don’t really give a damn that statistically, vaccines are a good thing.

    Then again, I’m not sure these children should then be put in public, government funded schools, putting others at risk.

    It’s a tricky issue, but again, I’m not a parent, so I’m not sure my opinion counts as much.

  4. jdbraun on May 28th, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

    I think it’s poor to compare the two issues.

    The Hauser’s decision directly affects only Daniel. When a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, their choice affects not only their own child but potentially countless others.

    Results of a new study, published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, show that the biggest risk among children who are not vaccinated is the disease itself, as well as the risk of spreading it to more vulnerable populations who, for age or medical reasons, are unable to get vaccinated.

    It was terrifying as a new parent to go out to the grocery store with my 7 week-old daughter and think of all the diseases that she had not yet been vaccinated for. Vaccinations are for public health.

    To compare the two issues is similar in my mind to equating drinking alcohol and driving under the influence. The first is a personal matter, the other a mater of public safety.


  5. Robert Moffitt (justpbob) on May 29th, 2009 @ 8:45 am

    David asks "Is this the state over reaching their authority Nanny State style? Is this really a freedom of religion issue? Can there ever be agreement between the two sides on the issue of vaccinations,forced medical treatment, etc?"

    Bob answers: No, no, and sadly, no, I don’t think so.

  6. greg on May 29th, 2009 @ 9:13 am

    You can justify specific cases all you want, but the more power we give the state over our lives, the more and more they want.

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